We get it: a sharp paring knife is a godsend. Corkscrews are great. And yes, that space-age tool is really cool looking, but would any chef actually pick that up and use it? When it comes to holiday gifts for chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists, and sommeliers, so many ideas have already been exhausted. And wacky might translate as fantastic in your book, but your average industry professional will not be blown away by that funky looking something-or-other that they won’t ever use. So we went straight to the source. For out-of-the-box gifts for the industry pro in your life, we asked chefs and pros across the country what they would most like to unwrap. Our annual guide covers all the bases—and wallet sizes—with fun yet practical gifts for the busy chef, pastry chef, sommelier, or mixologist to use behind the burners or in the privacy of their homes (if they’re lucky enough to have the night off!).
You’d be surprised how many everyday tools a double sawbuck can get you. Chefs are constantly telling us their favorite kitchen tool is a mandolin. But trying to use that wide blade for tiny garlic cloves doesn’t make much sense, and you may find yourself with more finger slices than aromatics. Try a mini-mandolin ($19.95).
Every mixologist needs a zester. A comfortable option, with its ergonomic handle and easy fit for left or right-handed bartenders is the Zyliss® Zester ($8.00). Have you ever been given a really great tool that is hand-wash only? Remember how quickly it was consigned to the back of the drawer? This brushed stainless steel WMF Loft Bar Strainer is a German design, and is as sexy-looking as it is user-friendly. Varying-sized holes decorate the top, and the coil spring is more flexible than most, making for a workhorse behind the bar.
Sommeliers can take some of the guesswork out of the diner’s hands by handing the label for that fantastic small production Viognier directly to them to take to the wine store, courtesy of Label Lift Wine Label Remover ($9.95). These nifty little adhesive sheets peel away from the bottle, automatically laminating the wine label as you lift it off the bottle. Never write down the name of a wine for a guest again.
Pastry chefs need precision. Eye-balling thickness when rolling out pastry doesn’t work, and rulers can get a little messy and inaccurate. That’s where the built-in adjustable discs come in on this adjustable rolling pin ($20). They show just how thick the dough needs to be without any guess work. Same goes for pie and tart crust diameters by the way—there’s a handy ruler etched into the rolling pin itself, so you know that 10 inches is 10 inches…no exaggeration here.
Regular tongs may be great for a gargantuan steak, but for lifting and turning delicate or tiny objects you start to feel like a giant trying to do microsurgery with a hammer. A Lilliputian-sized pair of Rosle fine tongs ($27) is best, with its sleek, gorgeous stainless steel functionality. Grilling smaller objects and plating fragile dish components is easier with these, as you don’t exert enough pressure to damage anything breakable. A gorgeous olive wood truffle shaver ($50) is every chef’s dream—after the truffles themselves that is—and with adjustable stainless steel blade, you’ll get spot-on diaphanous slices of that sexy nutty fungus-of-the-gods every time. Not that it’s impractical; the olive wood grain may look pretty, but it’s hardy, stain-resistant, and has antibacterial properties, so really, if you know someone serving fresh truffles (if you do, can you introduce us?), there’s no reason not to pick one up for them.
Knife rolls may be practical, but they’re boring. Pick up one of Messermeister’s notoriously rugged and hard-wearing knife rolls like the Messermeister 8-Pocket Knife Roll ($29.99) in a funky pattern like tiger stripe. It’ll never get mistaken for someone else’s, that’s for sure. Other than StarChefs.com of course, the quarterly journal of food and culture Gatronomica is full of inspiration for industry professionals. Pick up a subscription ($50) for someone on your list to keep the creative juices flowing.
Hard-working sleep-deprived chefs need coffee. The latest coffee aficionado wizardry includes the pour-over method. A Hario Buono pour-over method coffee drip kettle ($52) will make that first (and second and third) cup the antidote to drowsiness that it needs to be. If you haven’t seen the food documentary Fresh, shame on you. Arrange a screening ($100) after service for a whole restaurant team, pop open a few beers, and really think about where the food served in America comes from. Machine washable, flexible lightweight-Klogs ($54.95) have an anti-microbial footbed to absorb shock and cut down some of the stink that comes from working 14-hour days in the same pair of shoes. Slip and oil-resistant soles mean chefs avoid the ego-bruising modern dance interpretation that so often happens when foot meets spilled Caesar dressing.
There’s nothing practical about Tsar cut salmon from Petrossian ($119 a pound), but this section of the fillet from the center of the fish is fit for the chef who needs to be treated like royalty (don’t they all?). For the more public service-oriented chef, the sustainably harvested cherrywood Boos End-Grain Cutting Block ($119.95) boasts a butcher-block end-grain construction that can hold up to the daily pounding of a German knife, and is kind to the blade. Plus it’s pretty. A Bacon of the Month Club Subscription ($149) delivers a monthly supply of bacon from only the most hoighty toighty of heirloom bred pigs like Berkshire, Tamworth, Duroc, Red Wattle, and Gloucester Old Spot that are raised humanely on sustainable farms. Could bacon be any more virtuous?
The Vitamix 5200 ($649) is versatile, tough and durable as anything. The cooling system means that the motor can keep going and going, making it a great pick for restaurant use. The Kobe beef of the pork world, Bone-In Pata Negra Jamon Iberico ($1,195) is made only with acorn-fed Black-hooved pigs in western Spain for a luxuriant marbled texture. Paper thin slices somehow marry a buttery tenderness and distinctive nutty flavor that puts all other pigs to shame. Some may dream of Santa when the weather turns frigid, but nothing warms the cockles of the hearts of the team at Trummer’s on Main quite like dreams of a guitar cutter for the holidays. This double Guitar Cutter ($1,995) makes cutting everything from cakes to chocolates to petit fours a more accurate version of child’s play. And who doesn’t like to play a little during the holidays?